The sun came out at last yesterday and I managed to find a few minutes to wander the fields on the reserve looking for butterflies. Green-veined whites were out in good numbers with a few small tortoiseshell and common blues flitting from flower to flower.
The chrysalises of small tortoiseshell and painted lady shown on Springwatch last night reminded me of our successfull attempt to re-introduce brimstone butterflies on the reserve over 20 years ago.They were last seen at Ynys-hir in 1980. They disappeared from the reserve because their foodplant, alder buckthorn, had died out due to shading by a conifer plantation. And so, from the early eighties, hundreds of these shrubby trees were planted in suitable areas on site. In 1990 and 1991 eggs and chrysalises were sent to the reserve from a number of locations. The eggs were placed in suitable containers and fresh alder buckthorn leaves were collected daily to feed the caterpillars that emerged. Eventually adults emerged and they were carefully collected and released close to their favourite food. Every year since we have seen good numbers of adults and it was a delight this spring to see so many on the reserve.
At the edge of the peat bog I stopped a while at a sun drenched pond and watched chasers and darters skimming over the water surface. Large red damselflies and common blue damselflies were everywhere and carefully scanning the rushes at the water's edge I saw the first small red damselfly of the year. This little, dainty damselfly is one of my favourites but nothing, in my opinion, can beat the beauty of banded and beautiful demoiselles, both of which call the reserve home.
The seasons slowly change and the woods fill with the sound of chicks and there are skylarks singing over the meadows. Pied flycatchers will be fledging soon and will disappear into the woodland canopy to feed up for their migration south. Meadow brown and ringlet butterflies will soon appear and, as the strength of the sun increases, silver washed and dark green fritillaries can be seen flittering about. The first green sandpipers will be passing through the reserve for a pit stop before continuing on their journey south and young barn owls will be practising their hunting skills at dusk.
It's sad to think that tomorrow sees BBC Springwatch finished for the year, but summer will have arrived and with it the beauty and delights of another season.
Pictures of green-veined white and brimstone butterflies kindly provided by Will George (RSPB)